The FDA recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Broad-spectrum sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The FDA also warns that people of all skin colors are potentially at risk for sunburn and other harmful effects of UV radiation. So sunscreen is for everyone, but those with pale skin, red, blond or light brown hair, and those with a family history or personal history of skin cancer, must be especially careful. But what’s all the fuss about the toxic chemicals in sunscreens? Why is it so important to use safe sunscreens?
Even the FDA has expressed their concerns after they’ve determined that some of the active ingredients in sunscreens are absorbed into your system through your skin, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2019.
What led the FDA to conduct its own studies? They already knew that sunscreen ingredients are absorbed through the skin and can enter the blood plasma just like any chemical applied to the skin. (This is why your doctor sometimes gives you medicine as a cream to apply to your skin.) Despite multiple efforts by the FDA to persuade sunscreen manufacturers to conduct key safety studies, the manufacturers have failed to produce the information. So the FDA is now conducting its own studies.
Four commercially available sunscreens were used in the study — two sprays, one cream and one lotion. Each sunscreen contained a variety of the four ingredients tested: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule. These sunscreens were applied as directed four times a day.
Much to the concern of many, these ingredients were found in all the test subjects’ plasma in concentrations higher than the FDA deems safe. Even more concerning, these chemicals were discernible by the end of the first day and accumulated in the bloodstream as the study went on for a total of seven days! And what about children? They are even more at risk.
So what chemicals are considered safe to be used in sunscreen that will offer the broad-spectrum protection? The answer is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Whether you are buying or making your own sunscreen, read your labels carefully before purchasing!
One disadvantage to a sunscreen with zinc oxide is that the ones, which are higher in SPF, tend to have a ghosting effect on your skin. You know what I mean if you’ve tried some of these. It gives your skin a chalky look. No sunbathers want that! For this reason, some companies are using zinc oxide with nano-particles (avoid this) and some are adding tinting to help with the “ghosting effect.” A natural tinting is OK.
It’s better to use a sunscreen with a few toxic chemicals rather than subject your skin—your first defense system—to burning from the sun. UVA exposure does more than burn your skin and raise your risk of melanoma. It can also suppress your immune system and allow harmful free radicals to form on your skin. So if you can’t find a sunscreen without the toxins that works for you and you are at high risk, find the best sunscreen that works for you with the least toxic chemicals. After all, one normally doesn’t get in the sun on a regular basis.
Then after sunning, drink a glass of cool water with fresh lemon or essential lemon oil drops to help detoxify your body. You can even put a drop of lemon essential oil on the bottom of your feet. Remembering, 10 to 15 minutes of sun each day on your skin produces Vitamin D for your body. Many doctors recommend getting this daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun, unless you are at a higher risk.
Mineral sunscreens generally include safe zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide which work by creating a physical barrier on your skin from the sun. These two ingredients are best labeled “non-nano particles.” Chemical sunscreens generally use ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate for sun protection. These chemicals are known to cause many health concerns, and oxybenzone (used in two-thirds of sunscreens) is a potentially hormone-disrupting chemical that is readily absorbed by the body. Research shows that some of these are a major concern especially when used on children.
We must consider what these chemicals do to our bodies and the environment. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are so dangerous to ocean life that Hawaii banned sunscreens containing them.
It’s important to use safe sunscreens whenever possible. Safe means the sunscreening ingredients include non-nano particles zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and other safe ingredients such as coconut oil, pomegranate seed oil, etc. which both contribute SPF and are natural.
Next week, we’ll look at the Environmental Working Group’s “2019 Guide to Sunscreens” and I’ll offer a DIY recipe.
For Your Health,